Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The Catholic Church has 23 new Cardinals. A suggestive ceremony, comprising over 100 crimson robed cardinals and hundreds of bishops, to the tones of Latin formulae and song marked there entrance into what was once referred to as the Roman clergy and what today represents the universality of the Church. Love, dedication, loyalty, service: these are the virtues which the Pope said must characterise the works of those whose very vestments symbolise the commitment to serving the Gospel “to the spilling of blood”, as is recited in the Latin formula which they all swear.
This vocation was made all the more poignant by both Benedict XVI and newly elected cardinal Leonardo Sandri in their addresses, when they evoked the sufferance of Christians across the world but especially in Iraq, the violation of religious freedom and the offences against human dignity.
A solemn ceremony held in St Peter’s basilica marked Benedict XVI’s second Public Ordinary Consistory for the creation of cardinals – as it is officially referred to. A rite during which the Pope “creates” a new cardinal and bestows on him the biretta, that is the cardinals hat as well as his “title” or titular Church which is found in Rome. Thus they formally become part of the Roman Clergy whose duty it is to elect the pope. Tomorrow, during the mass which the newly created cardinals will celebrate together with Benedict XVI, they will be given their cardinal’s ring.
Today as the Pope noted, “times have changed and the great family of Christ’s disciples are spread throughout the continents”. “The diversity of the members of the College of Cardinals – he continued – by their geographic and cultural origin highlight this while at the same time they underline the changing pastoral demands to which the Pope must respond. The universality, the Catholicity of the Church is well mirrored in the College of Cardinals”. In fact, with the new appointments it is composed of 201 members, 120 of whom, having yet to turn 80, could take part in conclave to elect a new pope. Of the 201 cardinals, 104 are European, 20 North American, 34 South American, 18 African, 21 Asian, and 4 from Oceania. The Asian come from India (6), Philippines (3), Vietnam (2), Korea (2). Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Syria, China, Taiwan, Lebanon and Iraq have one each. Two of the new cardinals are from Asia, Oswald Gracias and Iraqi Emmanuel III Delly.
In reference to the latter, the Pope spoke of “Iraq’s dear Christian communities”. “These brothers and sisters in the faith – he continued –are feeling with their own flesh the dramatic consequences of an enduring conflict. By calling the Patriarch of the Chaldean Church to enter into the College of Cardinals – he added – I intend to my spiritual closeness and affection for that population. Let us together reaffirm the solidarity of the whole Church with the Christians of that beloved land and invoke from the merciful God the coming of longed-for reconciliation and peace for all the peoples involved”. Shortly before, Card. Sandri had also evoked the “tears and blood” and the “painful exodus of the many Christians from which Abraham once departed”.
Benedict XVI reminded all of the newly created cardinals that “every true disciple of Christ may aspire to one thing only: the sharing of Christ’s passion, without any claim to recompense. The Christian is called to assume the condition of the servant, following in the footsteps of Jesus that is, freely and disinterestedly spending his whole life for others. It is not the quest for power and success, but the humble gift of self for the good of the Church that must characterise all our actions and every one of our words. True Christian greatness consists not in domination, but in service”.
“Dear brothers –he then said- in becoming part of the College of Cardinals, God asks of you and entrusts you the service of love: love for God, for His Church, for your brothers and sisters with the maximum dedication, usque ad sanguinis effusionem, as the formula for the imposition of the biretta reads and as the crimson colour of your vestments show. You are the Apostles of God who is Love and witnesses of evangelical hope: this is what the Christian community expects from you”.